Earlier this month, Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper shared some thoughts with employees of the City in an internal newsletter. It seems timely to share his sentiment with a larger audience, as an acknowledgement of the spirit unity that has revealed itself in our community after the passing of Deputy Geer and, now, Delaney. As an agency, we’re grateful for Chief Camper’s thoughtful words, and thought others may benefit from them, too.
Communities can be like extended families. Their members don’t always get along. They may squabble or disagree. There are some whose company we enjoy, and others who we go to great lengths to avoid. Weddings and holidays can be occasions for joy or dread, depending on the particular guest list. But when tragedy strikes, families…and communities…set aside their differences, overlook each other’s annoyances, and embrace in their shared sense of loss and grief.
Our community is no exception, and though we may occasionally and bitterly disagree about issues, politics, or priorities, we come together in support of our members who are gamely trying to overcome challenges, or facing losses so crushing that we can’t help but make them our own.
The senseless death of Deputy Geer was one such loss. Whether we knew him personally, or not at all, he belonged to all of us. He represented our sense of safety and goodness. He was a critical steel beam supporting the solid structure that is our community. And when that structure is compromised, we come together as a family to support one another and share in the work it takes to shore up the structure. This community clearly did that, and I for one could not be more proud.
As a part of the miles-long procession honoring Deputy Geer’s life and sacrifice, I was rendered speechless by the community show of support for him, his family, and the profession of law enforcement. Thousands of our ‘family’ members lined the streets, in salute or with hands to their hearts. Others simply stood weeping, or supporting children holding colorful and carefully-handcrafted signs of support.
Many of you shared in that tribute, or found other ways throughout the recent weeks to offer support. Whether you helped light-up our community in blue, donated to a fund, or came out to support the epic Broomball benefit, every contribution mattered. And every contribution began the long process of shoring up our shaken structure.
On a crisp blue day this last December I went up to the airport to stoke the flying hobby that helps clear my head, while draining my wallet of any residual funds. Parked at West Star Aviation was a gleaming Falcon 900 private jet, considerably more luxurious than the aging two-seater Cessna I was about to occupy. Now I wouldn’t be able to come up with the name of a Taylor Swift song even if you offered me money, but I do know a little about airplanes, and I suspected that the owner of that impressive ride with an “N” number ending in “TS” was about to make a little girl’s dream come true.
That little girl, of course, is Delaney Clements, and this community has embraced her and her family in the same loving way that they have embraced the family of Deputy Geer. We’ve made her our own, through pink fire trucks, fundraisers, candlelight vigils, or digital campaigns to encourage a kind-hearted pop star to drop into town. In short, we’ve done what families do when day-to-day squabbles and disagreements are rendered trivial by the unfair challenges being faced by a little girl and her family, or the crushing grief heaped upon the family of one of “our” deputies.
And sometimes, as we may do during the noisy and occasionally contentious family holiday party, we have to step back, take a quiet look around, and offer grateful thanks for this family that we call “community.” ~Chief John Camper